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MTB (Mountain bike) riding in the South East of England for all tastes (including XC, Freeride, Enduro and Downhill riding)

MTB LED Night Light Test and Beam Shots

Some time ago we had this wild idea of doing a comparative test of our various MTB lights to let other people judge for themselves which was best. Having missed last year (yes, it takes us a while to organise ourselves!), last week we tramped out to the North Downs Way on Ranmore to do some back to back testing. A strange experience it has to be said…

The results are published here with the original shots of our MTB LED Night Light Test and Beam Shots on Flickr. I haven’t tweaked them at all in order to be fair but here’s a few words on the set up from our technical guru (Dave):

The process of photographing these lights involved the following steps;

  1. Mark out 15m points with the further points being marked by reflective ankle bands and printed A4 Muddymoles logos nearer.
  2. Try different exposures based on the brightest light (determined by eye) so as not to overexpose the foreground too much. Fix manual exposure to enable a good judge of relative brightness.
  3. Adjust the zoom lens to give a reasonable field of view.

The process wasn’t without a few trials and tribulations though. We started out thinking that 45m might be sufficient but had to nearly double that when setting the camera up using the MaxxD light.

Distance using a wide angle lens means the detail gets rather small. Using a Zoom lens also limits the aperture choice, a fixed 35mm or 50mm lens would have let more light in and given me more choice on exposure. I settled on 15 seconds at about 2 stops down from wide open.

Choosing to base the exposure on one of the 4-LED lights meant that the single LED lights or the low level settings don’t really give an accurate representation of what your eye sees as you ride. I don’t think there is much I could do to equal this out as I suspect it is a function of the sensitivity of the CCD in the camera compared to our eyes. Finally, with a 15 second exposure some movement is visible on the trees.

The location had it’s issues as well. We chose this because it is a trail we ride often and has difficult roots and ruts that need good lighting. Being a narrow bridleway means you don’t get the full idea of how wide the light might throw on an open field for example but then that’s not where we ride.

Having said all of the above I think the brighter settings give a very representative image of what your are going to get when you ride.

For the record the markings are as follows:

  • First Mole A4 paper – 15m
  • Second Mole A4 paper – 30m
  • First reflective band – 45m
  • Second reflective band – 60m
  • Third Mole A4 paper and reflective band – 75m

Having walked down to position that last reflective band I can vouch for just how far away that is!

So there you go. Technical bits explained, excuses made, just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you want to see the shots in a larger format click on a photo and you’ll get a fancy expanded view. Or visit our flickr site for the originals.

Update Here’s the results of our tests with the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme with beam shots which we had in for review during September 2009.

Airbike SL LED light

Originally purchased from On-one, these are now available from their sister company Planet-X. To be fair, there seems to be a problem with the lights in this test, possibly with a weak battery as this isn’t entirely representative of their usual performance.

Airbike SL High beam shot

The Airbike SL on High delivers a claimed 670 lumens

Airbike SL High beam shot

Airbike SL Low beam shot

The Airbike SL on Low delivers a claimed 375 lumens

Airbike SL Low beam shot

Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar light

These Ay-Up MTB lights are Lee’s and he’s written a full Ay-Up MTB LED lights review based on his experiences with them. Very nice lights which combine the flexibility of long burn times with the convenience of helmet and bar positions to provide a wide spread of light. Plus, the bonus of multiple colour options to the aluminium casings!

Ay-Up MTB LED helmet light beam shot

The Ay-Up MTB LED helmet light delivers a claimed 340 lumens with a narrow beam from the ‘narrow’ lens option

Ay-Up MTB LED helmet light beam shot

Ay-Up MTB LED handlebar light beam shot

The Ay-Up MTB LED handlebar light delivers a claimed 340 lumens with a wider beam spread from the ‘intermediate’ lens

Ay-Up MTB LED handlebar light beam shot

Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar light beam shot

The Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar lights delivers a claimed 680 lumens

Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar light beam shot

Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light

These are one of the bargains of the year for us. Dealextreme offer the HA-III P7 LED light for around £50 which includes battery, charger and everything you need. Rated at up to 900 lumens these are actually pretty bright (brighter than the images suggest) and provide a decent spread of light. You can read a Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED review from Colin based on his experience with them.

Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light High beam shot

The Dealextreme HA-III on High delivers a claimed 900 lumens

Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light High beam shot

Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light Low beam shot

The Dealextreme HA-III on Low delivers a claimed 500 lumens

Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light Low beam shot

Exposure Joystick LED helmet light (not MaXx)

This is the original Joystick model from Exposure back in late 2006, showing how far LED technology has come. It still provides useful light but has been superceded by many lights these days, including Exposure’s own MaXx models

Exposure Joystick beam shot

The Exposure Joystick delivers (we think) around 180 lumens

Exposure Joystick beam shot

Exposure MaXx-D LED light

The Exposure MaXx-D is one of the best LED lights you can buy. It’s unique advantage is the compact, all-in-one body which houses 4 LEDs and a battery with a 3 hour burntime on maximum output. With useful options that include a remote bar mounted switch to toggle between settings it has a lot going for it. I’ve written a detailed review of the Exposure Lights MaXx-D 4 LED light which covers the light in more depth – suffice to say it’s a great light.

Exposure MaXx-D High beam shot

The Exposure MaXx-D on High delivers a claimed 960 lumens

Exposure MaXx-D High beam shot

Exposure MaXx-D Mid beam shot

Exposure MaXx-D Mid beam shot

Exposure MaXx-D Low beam shot

Exposure MaXx-D Low beam shot

Four4th Lights MTB LED night lights

Four4th Lights come from a solid aerospace engineering background and have concentrated on refining the separate head unit and battery concept as much as possible. The results are head units that masterpieces of industrial design, packing a minimum of a 1200 lumen punch into tiny 50mm anodised shells. Our Four4th Lights review featured a 1600 lumen wide beam and 1200 lumen spot beam. With a wide range of colours available and carefully thought out details, these lights are up there with the best.

Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot beam shot on Max

Using 4 Cree XP-E LEDs, this unit was delivering a claimed 1200 lumens on full.

Four4th Lights Spot beam shot on Max

Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot beam shot on Low

Four4th Lights Spot beam shot on Low

Four4th Lights MTB LED 17° Wide beam shot on Max

Using 4 Cree XP-G LEDs, this unit was delivering a claimed 1600 lumens on full.

Four4th Lights Wide beam shot on Max

Four4th Lights MTB LED 17° Wide beam shot on Low

Four4th Lights Wide beam shot on Low

Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot and 17° Wide beam shot on Max

Around 2800 lumens according to For4th Lights!

Four4th Lights Spot and Wide beam shot on Max

Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot and 17° Wide beam shot on Low

Four4th Lights Spot and Wide beam shot on Low

iBlaast 3 x Cree R2 LED light

iBlaast are a New Zealand company and supply their lights as pre-built or DIY kits depending on how handy you are with a soldering iron. The iBlaast here is Colin’s and has the updated iBlaast2 LEDs (Cree R2s). As you can see, it’s chucking out a lot of light and can be bought in a wide range of options. Once you deciphered their website and got past the relatively unsophisticated (but reliable) build quality you’ll find a very impressive and flexible light. For more details, see Colin’s review of the iBlaast MTB lights.

iBlaast High beam shot

The iBlaast on High delivers up to a claimed 1000 lumens

iBlaast High beam shot

iBlaast Mid beam shot

iBlaast Mid beam shot

iBlaast Low beam shot

iBlaast Low beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) MTB light

Lumicycle have been late to the LED party but have finally weighed in with some strong contenders for the ultimate LED light crown. The LEDSys4 (and LEDSys3) system provides plenty of flexibility to get the right light for you and we were very impressed by it’s performance. Lumicycle customer service is excellent and when Tony contacted them we managed to get hold of the new Lumicycle LED System 4 head unit for testing and review.

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) High beam shot (spot)

The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Max (boost) delivers a claimed 1120 lumens

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) High beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Mid beam shot (spot)

The Lumicycle LED System 4 on High delivers a claimed 800 lumens

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Mid beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Low beam shot (spot)

The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Low delivers a claimed 400 lumens

Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Low beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) MTB light

The Lumicycle LED System 3 is quite a saving over the LEDSys4 and as with all their systems if you already have a Lumicycle battery you only need to buy the head unit to get up-to-date light levels. Which means the LEDSys3 could cost as ‘little’ as £159 (as at Sept 2009).

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) High beam shot (spot)

The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Max (boost) delivers a claimed 850 lumens

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) High beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Mid beam shot (spot)

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Mid beam shot

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Low beam shot (spot)

Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Low beam shot

Nukeproof Reactor Extreme MTB LED light

We were lucky enough to be sent the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme set for review recently and ran it at the Dusk til Dawn where it performed pretty well. It’s a nicely packaged and versatile light. For more detail, read Dave’s review of the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme light.

Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on low power

Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on low power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on low power

Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on low power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on high power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on medium power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on low power

Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on low power

TrustFire TR-801 Cree Q5 LED torch

Another find off Dealextreme, the Trustfire uses one high output LED and is roughly the same diameter as the latest Exposure Joystick models. Several of us have used these since last year as helmet lights (here’s a review of the TrustFire TR-801) as the light has the convenience of no wires and can be fitted with protected rechargeable Lithium batteries. For around £25-30 all-in, these are great and provide a tight focused beam of light. The photo here doesn’t really show how bright they really are.

TrustFire TR-801 beam shot

The TrustFire TR-801 delivers a claimed 230 lumens

TrustFire TR-801 beam shot

Now, over to you…

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33 comments on MTB LED Night Light Test and Beam Shots

  1. Dave says:

    Nice article Matt!

    I think the one comment I want to make after my section on the technical drawbacks of photographing lighting. The Airbike is actually very adequate on full power with a helmet light and the photos don’t really do that justice. The Dealextreme light is better though as it has more of a hot spot. The only time I think either of those runs out is on a fast downhill and then you want a bit more penetration so you can see what’s coming. that’s when the 1000 lumen lights come into their own. I was most impressed with the Lumicycle LED Sys4.

  2. mtbnomad says:

    Good comparison with clear photos.

    For us Ay Up seem to be the most popular but TR801′s are used as helmet lights with a bar mounted HID too. As many riders are about to upgrade what is the recommendation from your group?

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Nomad,

    That’s a tricky one, what re the main criteria, cost or illumination?

    Lumicycle Halogen users with good batteries should look at Lumicycle LED offerings, cost conscious the DealExtreme offering (I note a new package with helmet mount was released yesterday) and TR801 offer the bargain end. Money no object? MaxxD or LED Sys4.

    Having said all that the we’re not finished yet. LUU and Nukeproof packages are inbound to the Mole Hill (aka MoleHQ) so expect an few more articles in a couple of weeks.

  4. Matt says:

    Nomad, echo Dave’s thought’s – the Luu and Nukeproof lights seem to have created a bit of a stir recently so will make an interesting follow up test.

    I really rate what I’ve seen of those Ay-Ups for versatility – four LEDs across the bars and helmet all individually adjustable. That’s pretty good.

    Beyond that you’re looking at the big boys. The Lumi LEDSys4 was incredible and couldn’t be bettered for performance whereas the Exposure MaXx-D offers a strong performance in one neat unit. Difficult choice.

    I reckon with this much firepower on the bars the next ‘battleground’ is helmet lights to keep up. Most options run the risk of getting swamped at the moment.

    One final point – all these bar the underperforming (damaged?) Airbikes let you ride reasonably well off-road despite what the photos suggest. Some let you go faster than others of course…

  5. Andy says:

    Great report, very well thought out.

    Having run Lumicycle halogen lights and an endure Maxx (720 lumen) the last few years I always found them sufficient for off road riding. Now it begs the question “how much power do you need?”.

    Maybe the next test would be to extend the test to cover run times. After all, 1200 lumen for 30 minutes is no use on a 4 hour night ride. (The new programmable Niterider lights look set to give this additional flexibility). Its also pointless lugging a huge battery around just to get that power, so maybe weight of the unit would be important to some people.

    How about a timed run on different lights around a set route. See if more power makes a real difference in real word riding.

  6. Dave says:

    Hi Andy,

    Good idea regarding the run times, we’ll be running the Nukeproof at D2D so we’ll get a handle on the run time of that in real life. With the exception of the LED Sys4 all the other lights on the test were our own lights and hence we regularly ride with them in excess of 2 hours. The only times we have any issues are when people have forgotten to charge them up from the week before.

    It’s also not just a question of lumens, it’s how those lumesn are focused. I made a DIY light with 9 rebel leds in it offering some 1600 lumens but the only lens available was 25 degree. Stunningly bright for about 15m but bugger all use on a fast descent! The AyUps represent a great little package, especially considering they are only driven at 500mA.

  7. tony says:

    Hi Dave

    “With the exception of the LED Sys4 all the other lights on the test were our own lights” was right but I was so impressed by the LED4 I sent my LED3 back to get upgraded to an LED4. Cool that you can get upgrades too!

  8. Steven Dunn says:

    Great lights review (and elsewhere on MMs). I had my first night ride last night when I went exploring and took much longer to get home than expected. I had two sets of street lights on but they were pants in the woods. I am considering the Ay-Ups I like the look of their fixings and the colour combos.

    Steven

    P.S No badgers here, just deer – so far (LOL).

  9. Andy C says:

    You won’t be disappointed with the Ay-Ups, Steven. As one of 2 MMs running a set of these, they certainly meet all my requirements for a set of lights.

    They may not be the most powerful on paper, but in practice they perform excellently out on the trail. The wider bar lights and tightly focused head mounted lights provide optimum coverage.

    The additional kit (batteries, charger and head mount) that comes with the lights are quality and add a lot of flexibility to the light units themselves. And as you say, a great choice of colour combos. You won’t be disappointed (and sadly I’m not on commission).

  10. Steven Dunn says:

    Pricing Update: with current Xch rates the ay-ups Adventure kit costs £342 incl shipping & taxes. ouch. The Maxx Ds are c£285 and the Lupine Tesla 4 c £250.

    I went on my first night ride this evening, the weather was fantastic – I was overheating with only two T shirts and track bottoms. I chucked on two sets of Cats Eyes front & rear, and kept to 75% tarmac. Goodness, tarmac is so boring ! Covered 15 miles in only 1 hour – I must be getting fit (LOL).

    Anyways, although traffic can see me easily, it is clear I need something better for offroad (duh!). So I am now thinking of maybe just starting with one handlebar light, and seeing how I get on.

    Now thinking of buying British ie the Maxx D, unless any of you guys think I should be better doing something different. I really do not want to spend over £300 at this stage (and then hope I get to the credit bill before the wife).

    All my money going on bike & its gadgets and the only cycling kit I have is shoes & helmet. (Hoping for a dry autumn to save on mudguards). I just wear layers and motocross gloves. At least I have lots of ideas for Santa ;) .

    regards

    Steven

  11. Andy C says:

    Ouch, that’s a massive price hike in 9 months. My Ay-Ups were £225 in January.

    Admittedly they’ve upped the battery capacity (run time) in the latest kits, and chucked in a few more accessories, but that’s still a big outlay.

    The Maxx-D performs well (see above) and has less ‘faffage’ due to the integrated batteries. We would recommend one of the cheaper helmet lights (the Deal Extreme offerings are MM favourites) to complement the bar light, but see how you get on.

    Mountain biking brings out the ‘boys and their toys’ in most of us, but as you’re finding out, you don’t need all the gear to enjoy yourself, just a sense of fun and excitement. Let us know how you get on and good luck.

  12. Matt says:

    Hi Steven, that price is a bit expensive but looking at the Ay Up MTB kit they do (which offers two pairs of lights – that you can configure as you need – and batteries for a minimum of 12 hours) it seems the current price is £230.

    That’s pretty reasonable I reckon and both Andy and Lee have been pretty impressed with their lights. I think they have this particular kit.

    Appreciate your costs comments though, my credit card is always struggling to keep up!

  13. Steven Dunn says:

    Hi Matt, Ay-up no longer have a UK distributor and now ship everything from Australia. So you need to add Duty, admin & shipping to all orders and that is about £50 on that kit. More on the adventure one.

    I do like the convenience of the Maxx-D so that is my favourite at the moment. I will wait until the end of the month.

    best

    Steven

  14. StevenD says:

    New Exposure lights coming soon including the Toro and Diablo – updated Enduro Maxx and Joysticks. I came across this last night at http://www.bikemagic.com/news/article/mps/uan/7175 .

    Steven

  15. Rupert says:

    I really like the look of the cost/spec benifits of the LUU light via On One. Any idea when you’ll be testing them? Apparently they are the same unit as the Nuke Proof with different packaging. I’m a Swinley local so will need something with some poke to take on the labyrinth in the onrushing gloom!

  16. Dave says:

    Hi Rupert,

    I’m just toying with the write up in my head after doing two rides with the Nukeproof. Not had the LUU yet as I don’t think On-One have any in stock yet. Hopefully be able to publish something next week, we need to get some beam shots sorted.

  17. Rupert says:

    Cheers Dave,

    Colin’s been in touch and given me some useful tips.

  18. Bob says:

    How did the nukeproof light go. I am interested in the LUU’s which are the same light. do you have any beam shots of either with the different lenses in. I am in need of this info asap so i can purchase at the intro price. I am thinking of going for bar and helmet with narrow(H) and medium(B) lenses. Are they light enough to mount on the lid? Cheers Jim

  19. Dave says:

    Hi Bob,

    Beam shots should be next week. I think your choice is OK and given the price of two LUU it’s a lot of light for the money but I’m not sure you’d want the 4 cell battery on your lid. If the extension leads comes with it and you can put it in your pack then that should work. Other than that the full review will be after the weekend.

  20. Muddymoles says:

    NukeProof Reactor Extreme MTB light review

    A review and beam shots of the Nukeproof Reactor MTB night light which has been on test for a few weeks

  21. Muddymoles says:

    Out in the woods

    The Moles dispense with the bikes and set out on foot, in the dark, to photograph mountain bike lights in the woods.

  22. Muddymoles says:

    Ay Up! LED lights review

    An in depth review of the Ay Up twin LED MTB lighting system with bar and helmet mounts.

  23. Muddymoles says:

    DealExtreme HA-III P7 LED Bike Light

    Its time to start talking night lights and this P7 LED Bike Light from DealExtreme is a good place to start.

  24. Muddymoles says:

    Exposure Lights MaXx-D (for Daddy) 4 LED light review

    What’s it like living with and using the Exposure MaXx-D 4 LED light? Find out in this detailed review.

  25. Muddymoles says:

    Lumicycle LED System 4 review

    A review and beam shot of the Lumicycle LED System 4 mountain bike light.

  26. Muddymoles says:

    TrustFire TR-801 Cree Q5 LED torch review

    A review of the TrustFire TR-801 torch that uses a Cree Q5 LED to push out 230 lumens. Very powerful and very impressive.

  27. John says:

    Great test, would like to see a comparison between the Lumicycle led system and the Tigerlights mtb system. The beam shots on their website look very good. http://www.tigerlights.co.uk/

  28. Dave says:

    Hi John,

    Well I’ve emailed Tiger Lights to see if they want to send us a set to try and review. Will see what happens. If they do we’ll take them to the same trail and do some more photos.

  29. Mat says:

    Any experience of the Light and motion Stellas, 150L, 200 or 300 set up?

    Trying to decide between these and the exposure Maxx-d. I want a good light for commuting but one that I can also use for night trail riding. Maxx-d too bright/overkill for road use?

  30. Matt says:

    Jez wrote an excellent review of the Light & Motion 180 HID about eighteen months back – should give you all the info you need. I think he uses it to commute with too.

    MaXx-D is verging on anti-social for road use, you could look at the Strada which apparantly has a road biased beam spread?

  31. Muddymoles says:

    Four4th Lights MTB night light review

    A detailed review of two 1200 and 1600 lumen LED mountain bike light sets from Four4th Lights

  32. Pingback: Lights - Page 34 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

  33. Neil Wharmby says:

    Last winter, based on this test, I bought the Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light and was VERY impressed. At £50 it was a real bargain. Having just checked back, it’s now been reduced to £32:10! so I’ve just ordered another as a head torch. Thanks for the recommendation.

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